In 2019, Citrus Australia provided support to AUSVEG in developing a Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA), which was approved by the Department of Home Affairs, and made available for application from 1 January 2020.  

Labour agreements enable approved businesses to sponsor skilled overseas workers when there is a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market, and standard temporary or permanent visa programs are not available to suit needs.

Thirty-one occupations were approved, ranging from all skill levels (1-5), including Irrigation Designer, Farm Manager, and Mechanical Engineer in skill level 1, through to Horticulture Section Managers at skill level 5.

There are concessions, such as a reduction on the Temporary Skill Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), which means that you are not forced to pay an overseas worker more than an Australian worker would earn, if you can prove the normal wage in Australia.  As of February 2020, the TSMIT is $53,900.

An agreement allows growers to sponsor workers via three visas:

  • Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) (subclass 482) visa
  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) (subclass 494) visa
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) (subclass 186) visa

Horticulture industry employers can submit an individual application to the Department of Home Affairs to create an agreement between their business and the Department, with access to the aforementioned concessions. The HILA will be reviewed annually and has a range of benefits for businesses in the Horticulture sector including; 

  • Discount of up to ten per cent on the TSMIT where it is demonstrated that equivalent Australian workers do not receive annual earnings of $53,900.
  • A broader range of monetary payments (e.g. regularised overtime) and non-monetary benefits (e.g. accommodation) can be counted as guaranteed earnings.
  • Access to three visa types, with pathways to permanent residency.
  • Access to 31 occupations – the largest amount of occupations under any Australian industry labour agreement.  There are also newly approved occupations that are not currently on the ANZSCO list, and so would not be possible to sponsor outside of the HILA.
  • Workers can apply up until the age of 50 years for the SESR and ENS visas, with no age restriction on the TSS visa.  You can compare these visas here.
  • There is no fee to apply for the HILA.  Normal visa nomination and application fees will apply.

Challenges

  • Labour market testing is still required.
  • The HILA does not assist with lower-skilled roles such as pickers and packers. These should be sought from the Seasonal Worker Programme, the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Working Holiday Maker Scheme.

Source = Citrus Australia 

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